Did I scream when you pierced my ear, way up high? Almost in the cartilage?
We were at Myrtle Beach. Way back when. We'd pulled chairs out onto the cement walkway in front of our motel room. You, me, and our buddy, John, watched the big, glowing sun ball drop behind the ocean as we sipped Purple People Eaters. You know, grape Kool-Aid and grain alcohol.
Once I felt comfortably numb, you had John press ice on my left ear 'til I reached up to check if it was still there. You lit a Bic lighter and held a stickpin I didn't want anymore in the flame, to sterilize it.
"Here," you said, as you handed it to me. "Hold this while I go get the potato half."
John squinted. "Why do you need a potato half?"
"To put behind her ear, silly. So I don't stab her in the neck," you said.
I giggled and took another swig of my drink. "Her mom's a nurse," I told John. "She knows stuff."
I remember now. I did yell. Hollered so loud that everyone came out of their motel rooms. They probably thought they were gonna get to watch me bleed out.
You waved at the boy across the way who looked like the blonde guy on the Dukes of Hazzard. He leaned against the railing and called across the parking lot. "Everything all right, Ginger?"
All the guys in the motel that week called us Ginger and Mary Ann, like the girls on Gilligan's Island. It made sense, 'cause that's sorta how we were back then. You, tall and elegant. Me, petite and friendly.
You swept your almost black, Farrah Fawcett-styled hair behind your shoulder. Pulled yourself up to your full, almost six foot stature.
"Everything's just fine," you said. "You guys wanna go to Mother Fletcher's with us later?"
Across the divide, the boy's sunburnt cheeks and scruffy, not-yet-man beard made his teeth look super white.
"Sure!" he said. "Y'all gonna enter the wet t-shirt contest?"
"That's for us to know, and you to find out," you said.
My eyes were huge when you turned back to face me. You winked, and I let my breath go.
I noticed John's shoulders had dropped a little. I patted him on the back. "There. There. Everything'll be all right." That's what I tried to tell him with my eyes.
You see, back then, all the boys liked me. And back then, all the boys wanted you.
Things were different today. In court. When you were trying to get permanent custody of your granddarlings. You wore a black suit with a pink top. You had your waist-length hair twisted into a complicated figure eight. You looked at the judge over your Target reading glasses.
Out in the lobby, I'd gotten the feeling your lawyer thought I was cute. Saw him look at my hands, probably checking if I had a wedding ring. I wore my all-green Ann Taylor outfit, hoping it communicated this-chick-has-her-act-together. I also picked it 'cause it made my eyes look green. I styled my hair Jennifer Aniston straight. Sprayed it with Aveda gloss drops and everything. I made it a point to reapply my lipstick frequently, 'cause you never know who's looking when.
Man, I tell you what. Your attorney sure was a Talky Tom. Don't know if he's always like that, or if he was just trying to impress the judge. Or me.
I giggled behind my hand every time the just-the-facts lady judge said, "Get to the point, counselor."
Even though I thought your attorney was too long-winded, I liked it afterwards when he said my testimony on your behalf was like a verbal hug. That wasn't what I'd prayed for. It was better.
The coolest thing was when Judge Just-the-Facts asked me how long I'd known you. I swept my shiny hair behind my shoulders and said, "Forty years, ma'am."
I almost missed her saying you could have physical and legal custody of your granddaughters. I was still thinking about those forty years. Boy howdy. Forty years sure is a long time.
I bit my lip to keep from telling her honor something that was neither here nor there where the trial was concerned. Instead, I looked across the courtroom at you and tried to say it with my eyes. "It doesn't feel like forty years, does it? Heck, it seems like Myrtle Beach, and the Purple People Eaters, and the red-hot stick pin were just yesterday."